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Polish broadcast law change could force Discovery to give up TVN ownership

The Polish government has approved changes to the country’s broadcast law that could force Discovery to give up its ownership of local broadcaster TVN.

David Zaslav

The draft legislation, designed to prevent non-European owners from having controlling stakes in Polish media companies, must go to the Polish senate for approval before it can be passed into law.

TVN is Poland’s largest private television network and owns TVN24, the country’s largest independent news network, which has been a vocal critic of the government.

Discovery has said it is “extremely concerned” by the proposals and has appealed to the senate and Polish president Andrzej Duda to oppose the changes.

The US factual giant, which is currently in the process of merging with WarnerMedia to form Warner Bros Discovery, led by David Zaslav, said: “Poland’s future as a democratic country in the international arena and its credibility in the eyes of investors depend on this.”

The Associated Press has reported protests against Poland’s right-wing government following the vote in parliament, with protestors gathering outside the building and some clashing with police.

The bill marks the most significant effort yet by the government to take Polish media out of foreign hands, which it has said is necessary for national security. Critics have argued it marks a threat to media freedom.

Discovery took ownership of TVN in 2018 following its acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive, which bought a 52.7% stake in the broadcaster in 2015. Discovery owns TVN via a Netherlands-based subsidiary, but the changes to the broadcast law would still affect TVN as the subsidiary is ultimately owned by a non-European player.

Reports emerged last month that US president Joe Biden was following the proposed changes to Poland’s broadcast law and that resolving the issue was a “priority for the US.”

TVN said in a statement: “We will resolutely and consistently defend TVN24 and other channels of TVN Discovery Group. The result of today’s vote undermines property rights, causing concern for foreign investors in Poland. It undoubtedly also undermines the foundations of the Polish-American alliance built over the last 30 years.”


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